Content Samples: When Showing Is Far More Telling

How do you communicate your needs with freelance content writers? Instructions, guidelines, outlines, customer profiles and journey maps are all fantastic resources to share information about your business, your audience, and your products or services. However, it always helps to add some show to your tell.

A Sample Is Worth a Thousand Words

Create in your mind the image of a tree. Is it coniferous or deciduous? A sapling or a towering mature tree? You can use a lot of specific and descriptive language to help others begin to understand the image in your mind, but it would be much easier to simply be able to show a picture. The same can be true with writing samples.

When you share an example of content you like, it gives your freelance content writer a glimpse into what you are envisioning – even if you can’t fully articulate why you like the content. What exactly can samples show that you can’t tell? More than you might imagine. A sample is worth a thousand words – or at least a few hundred.

1. Voice

What is your brand personality? Whether it’s fun, quirky, serious, or inspiring, you want your brand personality to be consistent across your content and platforms. Ideally, your audience should be able to recognize your voice without even seeing your logo.

A skilled freelance content writer can create content that matches your company voice, regardless of the type of the content. If you tell writers about your voice, they will be able to approximate it without a sample. But an adept writer will recognize the nuances of your brand voice from samples and be able to match it, even without a description from you. Samples across varying types of existing brand content can easily paint a complete picture of your brand voice for your writers.

2. Tone

While brand voice should be consistent, regardless of content type and ideal customer, tone changes according to context. Customer profiles and customer journey maps are often used to help writers determine the appropriate tone for content.

A few examples of commonly requested tone include conversational, informal, and formal. What’s the difference between informal and conversational? That’s where samples come in handy. Examples of tone that match what you want can be from your company content, but it’s also helpful to share examples from other companies that hit all the right notes.

3. Style

Your company style, like your voice, should be uniform across content. It will impact your voice and tone but is separate from both. Your style determines aspects of writing, such as whether or not to use the Oxford comma, when to capitalize, and what type of language you use.

There can be several elements that comprise your style, and you should definitely share that with your content writers. But often, these elements seem contradictory. For example, many companies aim for a style that is both personal and professional. What that looks like for your company, however, is best explained with samples.

4. What You Don’t Like

Samples of what you dislike are at least as important as the samples you love. You may not have seen examples of content that hits all the right notes for your company. No problem. That means you’ve encountered a lot of content that misses the mark.

In some instances, it can be easier to see the shape of something by recognizing what it’s not. Examples of what you don’t like can help determine where you see the line between formal and stodgy or conversational and flippant.

The nuances that make great content writing may not be easy to articulate, but often you know it when you see it. When you do see it, save it and share it with your writers. When you show freelance writers the mark you want them to hit, they can take exceedingly precise aim.
Elizabeth L is a celebrant and former adjunct professor of English with a background in non-profit administration and customer service. She holds an MA in English with a graduate concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University. She also holds a BA in English with a minor in Religious Studies from Westminster College. Her professional writing experience includes academic research, literary criticism, grant writing, non-profit copywriting, and copyediting. 


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